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Micheál Martin blames Brexit on 'self-regarding English elite'

The Fianna Fáil leader was speaking at the Wolfe Tone commemoration in Bodenstown.

Jacob Rees Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons.
Jacob Rees Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons.
Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin has blamed a “self-regarding and imperially-minded English elite” for Brexit during a speech to commemorate Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown in Kildare. 

Martin, who has largely backed the government’s handling of the negotiations with the UK, said the “Brexit shambles” was a “tragedy for all who understand the lessons of the past and believe in the principle of cooperation between peoples and nations”.

“It is rooted on an extreme prejudice against rules-based cooperation and a narrow nationalism which has a history of delivering short-term highs and long-term misery,” he added. 

Martin was speaking as the fall-out over the House of Common’s Brexit vote continues, which saw MPs vote to force Boris Johnson to request an extension from the EU and effectively scuppering his hopes of leaving before 31 October.

The vote came only days after the UK and the EU reached a new deal on Thursday. The deal came following a frantic few days of negotiations, sparked by a meeting between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Johnson. 

Martin said that the deal should not be “celebrated”. 

“While last weeks deal may be welcome, it still contains genuine uncertainty in important areas and it proposes to cement a hard Brexit,” Martin said today. 

Martin was also critical of the arrangements for Northern Ireland, which would see the Assembly vote by a simple majority either every four or eight years on whether or not to continue to maintain a close customs relationship with the EU – an arrangement designed to avoid a hard border. 

The new consent mechanism in effect embeds uncertainty into Northern Ireland’s future arrangements.  This potentially undermines the ability to attract long-term investment.  Equally many of the procedures required to implement what is a complex deal in relation to Northern Ireland’s trade with Britain are unproven and have to be developed from scratch.

The next steps in the Brexit saga remain somewhat unclear. The EU is currently weighing up how to respond to Johnson’s extension request, while the UK government is insisting that the country can still leave before 31 October. 

The next week may also bring a vote on a second referendum in the House of Commons, as well as another meaningful vote on Johnson’s deal. 

General election

Martin, whose party is in a confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael, also said that Varadkar, who has said that he wants an election next May, will not “set the agenda” for an election. 

Martin did not indicate when he wanted an election. “It will be set by the concerns of the Irish people,” he said. 

“Whenever the election happens this government will be held to account for its many and growing failures,” he added. 

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